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Saturday, January 20, 2024

Jewel of the Seas - [Day 2] Christmas Eve at Sea

On Christmas Eve, we woke up to a surprise from Judy!

Judy and Stove used these magnetic dry erase boards to leave messages to Stove's siblings on their New England cruise on NCL in September. NCL has a no door decorations rule (loosely enforced), and one of his sisters was actually told that she had to remove the whiteboard from her door. Royal Caribbean allows door decorations, so no issues here!

I brought Christmas stockings from Amazon for our doors that Aaron and I hung up with magnetic hooks.


We met for breakfast in the dining room. They seat breakfast on the 4th floor (lower level) of the dining room.

I ordered the Breakfast Burrito which consists of scrambled eggs, chorizo sausage, hash browns and cheddar cheese. It seemed like it was panini pressed, and they used wraps instead of a flour tortilla. That said, it was a decent breakfast burrito.


Judy ordered the Market Vegetable Breakfast Bowl which is two eggs over medium atop a bowl of seasoned potatoes, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, red peppers, and melted goat and mozzarella cheese. I'd recommend adding a side of bacon or sausage.


After breakfast, we noticed the Jewel of the Seas Orchestra was playing in the Centrum.



It was for the Veterans Tribute at 11 AM. I've never stumbled across this ceremony before, but I learned that Royal Caribbean does this every cruise.




We had noticed the balloons up in the Centrum, ready for the balloon drop this evening.


As a Christmas gift for Judy, I had pre-purchased a coffee card. I thought that it would be left in her room, or that she would have a letter telling her where to get it. Not the case, so it's a good thing I remembered! We went to Latte-tudes where they had a printed out list of everyone who pre-purchased the coffee card.


It says 15 specialty coffees, but really you get 15 punches. A tall sized coffee is 1 punch. A grande or vente sized coffee is 2 punches (so might as well get a vente), and any iced beverage is 2 punches.


I was kind of surprised that they're using a physical punch card for specialty coffees instead of credits on your SeaPass card, but I guess it's easier to keep track of how many you have remaining that way, and also easy to pass the card off to someone else to use to redeem (there's no rule against sharing).


We returned to our room to find a Christmas Card and Towel Animal.


Also, we received a note that our San Juan Luggage Storage Shore Excursion was canceled. Major bummer! We were planning to have them keep our bags after disembarking so we could explore San Juan before our flights later in the evening. 


Also, here's some more information about the Crown Lounge (formerly the Diamond Club Lounge). The removal of the nightly happy hour (replaced with 4/5/6 daily drink credits, depending on C&A loyalty level) seems to have resulted in a lowered interest in the lounge, thus a much more manageable number of guests in the evenings. We still went to the Crown Lounge almost every night because they offered small bites before our late seating dinner.



For cabin organization, I hung up all of my jewelry and accessories on this wall using magnetic hooks. The magnetic hooks are game-changer for me - small to pack, but make a big impact in keeping the stateroom organized so that everything is easy to find.


Rachel and Landon went to the gym, and Aaron and I went to the Shops of Centrum for Discover: Iconic Swiss Timepieces. There wasn't much to discover, just looked at the watch displays (we mistakenly thought there may be a seminar, but it's really just a "shoportunity"). The shops were also super crowded which I was surprised by.


It turns out that by "Iconic Swiss Timepieces," they meant that they were having a sale on Invicta watches. I mean, I guess Grogu is iconic....


I'm so amused at the plastic "tough box" watch case.... it's giving Tonka dump truck.


I window shopped for jewelry...


While Aaron tested fragrances.


We walked away empty-handed. On our way back to our room, I snapped a photo of this very interesting stairwell art of someone doing a backbend over a creek....


Time to hit the pool deck!


The sundeck around the main pool area was pretty crowded, but there were plenty of lounge chairs near the front of the ship. We stumbled across a sun deck on Deck 10 forward - to get there, you have to walk forward on Deck 11, then take the stairs down (so not accessible).


We circled back to the pool area for towels and finally located the towel stand. It turns out that since we're Diamond, they don't scan our card to check out towels, so we didn't have to worry about whose card the towels were on and scanning our cards to return them. I do wish getting towels was easier, though.... maybe they could have multiple distribution locations.


Rachel and Landon came to join us. The only downside of this location is that there's no bar service up here.


Aaron was stoked that anyone could go out on the helipad (verses Celebrity Summit where the helipad was only open for schedule events).


We decided to pack up and go get drinks.


Stove had already gotten himself a drink.



Judy gave Rachel and I these super handy wristlets with plastic ID sleeves for our SeaPass cards. It's perfect for when you're out on the pool deck and want to order a drink from the hot tub, and hit has a keyring clip so you can clip it to a bag or camera strap.


We went to the Solarium Bar for drinks. Stove went and got pizza and ate it at the bar. Then Landon did the same and was told he wasn't allowed to eat at the bar. Whoopsies. There were no tables available, so we relocated to lounge chairs where you can drink and eat pizza.



The retractable roof was closed for our entire sailing which I was a little surprised by since it was a warm weather cruise. I think it would be cool to see the ceiling retract.


Recent update to the signage increasing the age requirement to 18+ (was formerly 16+). I think this adjustment makes sense seeing as it will be easier to enforce. It's much easier to identify adults by their SeaPass cards, and it takes the crew out of the awkward/potentially creepy situation of attempting to guess the age of minors by their appearance (while they are most likely wearing bathing suits... no wonder it was rarely enforced).



Aaron and I ordered rum punches and learned that rum punch from the Solarium is an incredibly potent cocktail. If you're trying to get bang for your buck, this is it.


It must be super boring to be a lifeguard in the Solarium.... I never saw them do anything besides stand there.


Tonight was the Top Tier Crown & Anchor Loyalty Party which we wanted to attend, but we also wanted to maximize our pool time.... we decided to attend the loyalty party in casual attire, then get ready for Formal Night after the party, so we headed back to our rooms to freshen up a little....



Don't worry, we put on real clothes. I didn't feel like adding the speedlight to my camera yet, so I opted to carry the D750 with my 50mm f/1.4 lens.


Perfect timing!



The loyalty event was in the Safari Club. We felt super underdressed walking in past all of the officers, so we decided to tuck away in the corner.

We were super surprised by how few people attended the loyalty event. Perhaps it's because it was at 5PM which conflicts with the main seating time in the dining room. Maybe others didn't feel like dressing up early tonight, either. Whatever the case, it was pretty lame.


For one, they've really cut down on the loyalty event. In the past, they offered small bites like caviar. They did have drinks, but not a huge serving team. Maybe they knew the turnout would be bad? But if so, why host in such a large venue? Also, there was only one loyalty event which makes me think maybe they did away with the loyalty event for all members? I remember going to these loyalty events when we were Gold/Platinum.


Still, I was having fun with my 50mm lens.


They recognized the three C&A members with the highest status on our sailing, and I thought it was cool/interesting that it was all women. It was also interesting that two started cruising the same year that we did (2001) - that's a lot of cruises!




Immediately after the event, they started turning the stage over for the band.



We wanted snacks, so we headed up to the Crown Lounge.




I was expecting the serving team to walk around with little bites like these at the loyalty event.


We headed back to the room to get ready for Formal Night.



Time for the D7100 with the 35mm lens and SB-700 with softbox.



Tonight was Christmas Eve, so there was a special holiday menu.


Holiday menus are not what Royal Caribbean (or any other cruise line that I know of) does best. The reason that the food is consistent in quality is because the same dishes are prepared on every cruise. Special menus introduce new dishes which make it more difficult for the cook/prep team, as well as make timing more challenging for the serving team. I appreciate the sentiment behind a holiday menu, but now understanding the operational challenges that result in more hit-or-miss dishes, I'm not really a fan.


Tonight, we were seated on the opposite side of the dining room at Table 456 (another table for 8) with server Victor and assistant waiter Kiran. Aaron and I arrived to the dining room first and were seated by the team (unaware that the rest of the family would then wait for us outside of the dining room.... I had messaged them in the app that we were seated, but unfortunately the app doesn't notify you when you receive a message, you just have to check it).

Victor came over to us and asked us who we were and why we were seated there. I told him that we had been seated at this table by the dining staff. He said that we weren't on his sheet. I pulled up the app which showed Aaron and I at Table 456. He said that he's never seen that before. He told me that he just wanted to make sure that we were seated at the right table because he "didn't want there to be drama." That struck a nerve with me, and if my family wasn't on their way to join us, I would've gotten up and left. Victor went to check about us at this table, and then the rest of the family was seated at the table, and no one showed up to fight us for our seats and cause drama.

My guess is that he had guests seated here the night before, and they requested to move tables/dining times because this table was right beside a huge, very loud family that was seated at multiple tables. I did not appreciate how Victor handled the situation. I really don't think that it's his role, as a server, to put himself in the position of telling people that they do not belong at his table. Clearly there was a miscommunication, and I wish that he would have taken this problem to his leadership for them to resolve behind the scenes. The way he pressed me made me feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. 

I feel like this is valid and constructive feedback, but unfortunately, I don't think it's possible to give constructive feedback in the cruising industry because anything less than 10/10 is viewed as bad, rather than an opportunity for improvement. So I didn't issue a formal complaint because I didn't want to get anyone in trouble.



For my starter, I ordered the Almond-Crusted Fried Brie. The greens were quite bitter. The fried Brie was okay, but per my notes, "I hate everything right now," so maybe it was better than okay, and I was just still fuming from earlier.


Aaron ordered the Caesar Salad, and he said that he didn't think they washed the lettuce.... but it's a cruise ship, so could be anything really.


And also the Baked French Onion Soup which was fine.


I avoided the turkey and ham entrees because I've made that holiday menu mistake in the past. I opted for the Herb-Crusted Salmon, which I would describe as "mid." It just tasted like fish, nothing unique or really flavorful about it.


I got the Creme Brulee for dessert. It was entirely cold. The crust wasn't really toasted, so I'm not sure if the crust was cold because it didn't really get a toast, or if it had been toasted hours beforehand.


Judy got the Buche de Noel. Such a Judy dessert to order.


Aaron had the Spice Cake which was stale and absolutely disgusting. Yuck.


At the end of dinner, Victor told us that we would probably be seated somewhere else tomorrow night. Maybe he would see us again, but most likely not. It felt like he was trying really hard to get rid of us.

After dinner, we headed to the Centrum where they were having the Christmas Eve Balloon Drop. We sat at Vintages and ordered Espresso Martinis. The Espresso Martinis were just cold brew coffee with vodka, so not nearly as good as on NCL with actual espresso.


Before the balloon drop, Rachel and Aaron stepped forward toward the Centrum to stand (as did I, but I walked to the side so my back was against a wall since I was shooting with a 35mm lens) and in doing so, Rachel stood in front of a woman who was seated in the lounge seating. This was a territorial woman who had already told some kids to get out of the chairs she was saving, so she was serious about watching some balloons drop. She grabbed Rachel's arm and told her to get tf out of her line of sight, so Rachel retreated to the bar to tell Judy about what had happened. The woman came up to Judy and said, "Do you have something to say to me?!" To which Judy responded, "I don't want to talk to you at all." And I guess that satisfied the woman (or maybe the balloons started dropping) because she left Judy alone.



Definitely worth fighting people over. Almost as amazing as fireworks at Disney. (/s)


Rachel needed to get away from the territorial balloon woman, so we left Vintages and headed to the Safari Club.



And she told us all the story about how she had been assaulted by a woman trying to watch the balloons drop on Christmas Eve.


Everyone else went to bed, and Aaron and I decided to play a friendly match of checkers. (I won.)


Then we went on another fun late night rendezvous around the ship.

This is the Pit Stop Bar which is a dedicated sports bar located between the theater and the casino.



We went up to the 13th floor to check out the Vortex.


It's a pretty good spot for late night people watching.


And then, of course, the helipad!


We took turns doing The Titanic at the bow of the ship.


I had an idea for a late night photoshoot in the hallway (inspired by Rachel Martino's New Year's Eve Engagement Shoot at The Plaza Hotel last year.... this isn't quite The Plaza, but it was fun. I was planning to set up my D7100 on the tripod, but then I realized that my Nikon wireless remote was dead, so I switched to my iPhone 13 Pro with my new phone tripod (it's so quick and easy to set up) and used my Apple watch as a shutter remote (which was actually easier because I could see the composition on my watch). I'm going to Photoshop out the green exit sign and LED strip lighting later...


We tried to wait up for Santa, but didn't quite make it....


NEXT: [Day 3] Barbados

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  1. Keep the Reviews coming: Love the pics; BTW just booked our 3rd X cruise for FEB_25 to the ABC islands and GC!! When is Rachel getting married?

    1. Love the ABC islands! Rachel is getting married in June!